Hewlett’s only bar, the 1762 Broadway Lounge, became vacant nearly two months ago when the tenant was evicted for failing to pay the rent.
“You could see the writing on the wall before he left," said James Frauenberg, who has lived across the street from the bar since 1992. "The business was curtailing for a long time. The place would be open, but no customers were in there.”
Odel Bruni, the wife of one of the landlords, confirms that their latest tenant was behind on his rent. Her husband Mario Bruni and his partner are actively seeking a new tenant and have fielded several phone calls from interested parties after placing a for-rent sign in the bar’s window.
The landlords, who have owned the whole building for over 30 years, are asking $3,100 per month for rent, although there may be a little flexibility for the right tenant. They hope to find someone more dependable this time around, according to Odel Bruni, who said that the property has been a bar for at least 50 years.
Although the landlords expect that the place will remain a bar, they are open to offers from tenants who may want to open up a different kind of business. That would be welcome news to Frauenberg, who has had some issues with the bar in the past, and particularly with this last tenant.
“I’d like to see something more family oriented, like a coffee shop or even a small retail shop,” Frauenberg said. “This place has been a gin mill for so many years, but this last owner had more of a transient crowd than any of the others.”
According to many of the steady customers from the 1980s and ‘90s, the place lost some of its appeal once it was sold to outsiders in 2003.
“I liked the place back then, because it was local and a friendly place to go where everyone basically knew everyone,” said Evelyn Leyh, a frequent customer up until about 2004.
I have first-hand knowledge of this situation, as I have had a long history with this establishment. I was a customer there in the late 1970s, when it was called the Beverly Lounge. Then I became a bartender for a short time in the ‘80s when it was renamed Cheers, and eventually bought the place with a friend from 1995 to 2003.
Over the years, the bar held its own and continued to thrive, even after long-time competitors closed down, such as King James in Lynbrook and Larry’s Pub in Gibson. Business was good when we first took over. But towards the end of our run, stricter DWI laws, smoking bans, the flagging economy and an aging clientele took its toll on the business.
In recent years, other popular local bars have closed down permanently as well, like Saturday Evening Pub in Valley Stream and Cousins in Woodmere.
“I don’t think a bar is consistent to the atmosphere of the neighborhood,” Frauenberg said.
But these places reflected the sentiment of the iconic TV show’s theme song, where everybody knew your name. That was the appeal of the local bar scene back then. As opposed to large, impersonal nightclubs, these were places where you made strong connections and friendships — the owners, the staff and the customers.
This might be the end of an era.